Posts Tagged ‘Apple’

Perils of Purchase

May 22, 2014 Leave a comment

A magical thing happens when we own something. Having made the purchase using our own money we’ve personalized the experience. This is why the computer from the employer is “junk” and why the dinner from a different cook just doesn’t taste the same. When we do it ourselves we place our skin in the game: we personalize the experience or item by connecting to who we are. Our purchases are extensions of who we are: they demonstrate a decision we have made or a preference that reflects who we are. Marketers know we do this and utilize brands as extensions of personality. Are you a Pepsi or a Coke person? Is it Apple or PC, Android or iOS?

Falling victim to the game of branding creates a paradox of experience. Though trying to express our individuality in our purchases we end up subscribing to massively popular brands. We work to select the item that best reflects our personality or that most closely matches our perspectives on life. A certain type of character is connected to brands. Technology companies are particularly skilled at creating cultural connections for its users. Are you an “Apple person”, the ad might seem to suggest. Ultimately our attempts to be unique leave us blandly like the rest. The only way to truly be unique is to build it all ourselves. Program your own operating system and manufacture the hardware in the basement. Work to escape the brands and perhaps you can be unique. Of course this is impossible. Brands are popular because they’re easy to engage with and embrace.

By That Which We Carry

August 6, 2012 Leave a comment

The items we choose to carry with us reveal much about both who we are and how we want the world to perceive us. Identities are created and suggested in our actions and via these accessories we extend these notions outward. In many ways our media is a mirror of our own individual tasks at “persona creation” and offer a glimpse into the means by which we say who we are to others.

The items which fill our pockets come from choices. Consumer culture has long understood the power of branding and the tribal tendencies of human being. We do more than simply own a phone; instead, that phone is a device of numerous connections from which we can be categorized. An “Apple User” or “IPhone Owner” means less about the company and product and more about we as individual and consumer who has made a decision.

There is power in choice and judging the effects of our choices is the basis of many details of life. Bad decisions suggest flawed character and, vice inversely, notions of bad character come about when evaluating one’s choices. How we we establish who a person is? Limited as we are with our ability to penetrate the psyche, the raw evidence of choices and character function as the basis of our conclusions.

Messenger as Message

March 19, 2012 1 comment

Who brings the message bears the message. On the shoulders of the person who delivers a message we place a keen sense of perspective. Do we believe this person’s claim? How does what this one person says relate to what we already believe? While we may assume we greet new information with objective curiosity, we respond with far my subjective consideration that we care to admit.

Is it a means of protection that we disregard figures who challenge our sense of norms? If a speaker dresses unusually or a writer loads his text with profanity is an added level of scrutiny warranted? In judging a source of info we unfairly impose judgment on the information provided by a source. Information cannot be purely objective but the unique qualities of the source that provides us with information too often cloud our interpretation. Data is data.

Two recent stories showcase how a source of information influences our interpretation. In both the Kony 2012 and Mike Davies incidents we see the speaker’s actions determining public reaction. Both cases show how a speaker’s behavior can dramatically affect the information a source provides. With the (potential) downfall of both speakers the information sinks with the ship, advocates must bear in mind that they carry their message with their reputation and, once tarnished, unfairly risk public response.

The Battle Lines Are Drawn

January 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Jonathan Zittrain’s The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It suggests two major philosophies at the core of the internet’s designers: “trust in your neighbor” and “procrastination.” Zittrain’s text explores how these two features have led to an open system or, as Zittrain suggests, a “generative technology” responsible for both positive and negative innovations. Due to the internet’s openness and lack of centralized control we have incredible openness that allows for both amazing innovation and threat.

Such a design feature is unique. Unlike the phone system which was largely closed, the internet and the PC (as Zittrain also explores) are two key pieces of contemporary technology created with an open-ended philosophy at play. This “open” status allows a user to make hardware and software changes as desired. These technologies differ from video game consoles or the IPhone, two hugely popular technological devices that are “closed” or protected from user adjustments. The effect of this distinction is a battle line of computing philosophy.

The school of “open”, whose lineup includes Google, Linux and Wikipedia urge a future composed of systems capable of major user control and a content world where material created by non-professionals is dominant. The school of “closed” includes Apple, major media companies and, it seems the FCC, argue for a more protective system of devices that cannot be changed by a user and protect major media companies whose work has largely been shared online for free. Protection is the driving force of the “closed” school of computing.

As we progress through the battle of “open” versus “closed” its important to remember that many companies waver between the philosophies and current stalwarts in both camps will likely shift between camps. In addition we have companies like Microsoft that products entrenched in different camps: the XBOX is a closed system while Windows allows users to create programs as desired. Exclusivity is not a requirement of this debate.

My interest is in the implication of this debate. As more users begin to utilize technology we will see a society closely connected to the internet and connected devices. Human connections will expand with the help of technology and through the web of connected devices and related utilities the day-to-day existence of human beings will be drastically altered. The final solution in the debate of “open” versus “closed” will  play a major role in perceiving how the future will unfold. The way we interact with technology, the material of popular culture and the function of the consumer in the technology industry will depend largely on the debate.

Never before has society entered a funnel of this sort. Technological development in previous generations has come as a gradual evolution. Unlike today’s system with two powerful players, the developments of the past spawned from monopolized networks that simplified use via monopolization and public limitation. No longer are we distanced from technology or limited by a government and corporate network more interested in establishing a product’s use. We now have a network of relative openness and a society largely saturated by electronic devices. In many senses this debate is coming after major adoption of the associated devices. There will be no creation of policy; instead an adjustment will be forced upon a public largely unaware of the debate taking place.

Text Reflection: The Master Switch by Tim Wu

January 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Tim Wu’s The Master Switch has a lot of ideas running through it. Its a wonderful book, no doubt an important educational one with broad connections to the historical, cultural and government events that delivered us to where we are. At its core, the text traces the evolution of communication technologies through Wu’s contextual “cycle” in which each new technology evolves from discovery to societal use. The text makes clear the battles fought for these lines and traces the common players whose swords are seemingly ever drawn and sharpened for a battle. Herein lies the sad part because, as Wu’s text makes painstakingly clear, with ever development there comes a period of denial and protectionism that disregards social benefit and focuses instead on protectionism for corporate power figures.

Our communication lines are fraught with constant battle. These highways for our brains on which a significant portion of our world view is dependent is less a public good and more a corporate commodity sought out and smudged at the whim of major players.

Wu reminds us of the danger of private control. He doesn’t suggest a complete private turn over of the communication lines to government control; instead, his text works to argue that historical record points to a common form of behavior. We always see the denial of innovation. We’ve always seen a government less interested in competition when a cleaner, more efficient process when expansion is possible. Just like our most efficient corporations, when our government perceives the opportunity to avoid a major cost there is an attraction to a bending of the law. Major tasks like communication line expansion is a tricky task- long and expensive and better left to major corporations who have more to gain and far less to lose in the face of political factors.

The Master Switch urges caution in light of these trends. Wu reminds us that with each communication evolution we grow more dependent on our technology to connect with fellow human beings. With innovation comes comfort and a slow dependence on the conveniences that technology provides. Eventually the effort we used to invest to meet people is divided for some other task and slowly we surround ourselves with less social interaction and grow all the more dependent on our techno toys and goodies. There’s a risk here and Wu reminds us that if history provides any insight into the future we’ll see a monopolization of technology. Major hazards lurk ahead as we reveal more and more about ourselves and further bury ourselves in our gadgets.

Let The Master Switch be a warning: our communication lines are crucial to our social well-being and as we grow more and more dependent on these artificial means of connection we must also strengthen our gaze on those who manage these lines. Dependence on another for these means of communication leave major areas of vulnerability. Trust but verify these figures and let history be our guide: there will be greed and denial of innovation but as long as human genius maintains its constant battle forward we can stay just a few paces ahead of greed and stagnation. If technology is a savior then its better left to the outside world- just as all great innovations come from an outsider the escape from corporate control and hazard will come in the form of the newest great idea that comes beyond the boardroom walls.

Enthusiasm’s Era

January 3, 2011 Leave a comment

We live in a time fueled by enthusiasm. Rapid release of beta formats, yearly product updates and endless chains of sequels are just three examples of the ways in which our heightened interests drive us forward. Is the software not working? How should we respond? In the past we’d likely shrug our shoulders and write it off as a sign of a bad product and an error in judgment. Not today though, in our current era we post on a manufacturer’s website, contact the company directly or, if really fired up, launch a mini flame campaign to force a fix.

No longer do we function at a distance from the makers of our toys. We are now closely linked and dictate what we want, how we want it and scream if what we get just doesn’t make the grade.

Networking makes this possible, connecting consumers with creators so that the desires and needs of the end-users can be a crucial dynamic of the design process. In short, companies who produce material for public consumption, whether physical, mental or emotional, are tightly tethered to future users of their products.

This system is not exclusively positive; however, in cases where a product is defective, a manufacturer cannot simply wash its hands of responsibility or issue a major recall for the products. In today’s system of closely tethered relations, a manufacturer’s reaction must come in the form of rapid deployment and extends far beyond the dead-end state of defective. Now a minor bug demands a response and what in earlier eras would be written off as just a bad feature, exists now as an item on a growing list of “bugs” that developers must correct.

Even beyond cases of product faults many manufacturers are expected to provide users with what they hope to see- acting as cyber Santa’s whose latest creation is less about the corporation’s notions of product identity and more about fulfilling the list of demands expressed by a user base. Note a manufacturer’s website for  a discussion board where endless threads exist as virtual Christmas lists for wandering company eyes.

We live now with endless betas and product improvements. Internet Explorer entered the world free from a numeral distinction. IE was IE, it wasn’t IE 6 or 7 or 8 or 9. This development came only as more consumers came on board and explored alternative browsers. One can only assume Microsoft’s intentions for IE in a pre-Chrome and Firefox era, but the program’s slow progression to each major release (in comparison to Firefox and Chrome) suggests a less than interested policy of constant improvement and correction.

Beyond this negative factor a manufacturer does benefit from this close connection to the consumer. Market research now occurs in-house and a population of enthusiastic users can be tapped into to provide product ideas and testing. For many companies the difficult task of improving a product while avoiding a major error that inadvertently reduces use can be avoided with this network of enthusiastic users. In essence, the “in-house” volunteers provide a breadth of services far beyond the stretch of even an employed body of developers. With the investment of cognitive surplus, a body of testers dedicate an immense force to a product and in many ways carry the future of the product on their backs. Dedication and enthusiasm are the power forces that drive this development and are revolutionary in their power. We have not seen this sort of power in previous eras and companies are only starting to recognize its power.

A result of this slow reaction is the growth of third-party developers and small companies. Large companies whose hegemonic rule over the early internet or whose power in the hardware area simply transferred to the online world have been slow to react and as a result suffered significant losses.

In order to fully succeed in our era, a company needs to tap into the enthusiasm of its user base. Consumers have a passion for their products and identify with their gadgets. Companies that recognize this power and support their developing social networks can “use” these individuals to improve product development. Such a relationship benefits both the users and manufacturers. Enthusiasm is a life blood now and working as the fuel of innovation must be recognized as a major driver of the dawning internet hegemony.

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